When do you ovulate? How to track your cycle and determine when you are most fertile

  • You ovulate approximately 14 days before the start of your period.
  • You can also tell when you ovulate by monitoring your cervical fluid and using a predictor kit.
  • During ovulation, your basal body temperature will rise by about 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit.

If you’re trying to conceive, timing matters.

Your chances of getting pregnant change throughout your menstrual cycle, so it’s helpful to track your cycle when you’re trying to conceive.

Typically, a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days long, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB-GYN at Yale University. However, this is only an average – some women have a longer cycle, while others have a shorter one.

Regardless of the length, your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period, so having regular periods is helpful if you want to track your cycle. If you have irregular periods, it can be harder to tell when you ovulate.

You are likely to conceive in the five days around ovulation

“The most fertile time of your cycle is right around ovulation,” says Minkin.

During ovulation, you release an egg from your ovaries into one of your fallopian tubes where it can be fertilized by sperm. But if that egg isn’t fertilized within 12 to 24 hours, it breaks down and essentially dies.

However, the time when you are most likely to conceive is longer than 24 hours. This is because sperm have a longer lifespan and live in a person’s body for 3 to 5 days.

So, “if some sperm are deposited a day or so beforehand [of ovulation]that’s good,” Minkin says, because the sperm will still be around when the egg is released.

Therefore, you are likely to get pregnant if you have sex in the five days around ovulation and the day of ovulation. But don’t overdo it.

If you have sex too often, the amount of sperm in each ejaculation may be less concentrated and “it may not be as effective at getting you pregnant,” says Minkin. Once a day, or every other day, seems to give the best results.

You are least likely to get pregnant right after ovulation

You are least fertile when you are furthest from the time you start ovulating.

So, right after ovulation, in the days just before your period – is the least likely that you will get pregnant.

It is possible, but not very likely, to get pregnant during your period, especially if you have a short menstrual cycle and ovulate early.

If you have sex the day after your period ends, it is possible to get pregnant because there is a possibility that the sperm will still be present when you start ovulating about a week later.

How to tell when you ovulate

Since it’s such a small window, it can be hard to pin down when you start ovulating. Here are some tips:

  • Track your cycle: To start, try to track your cycle. Ovulation occurs about 14 days before your period starts. Count back from when your period is expected to arrive to find out when you should ovulate. If you have a 29-day cycle, you’ll ovulate around day 15, but if you have a longer 35-day cycle, you’ll ovulate around day 21, Minkin says.
  • Monitor your cervical fluid: When the texture is creamy and the color is white, it indicates that you are approaching ovulation, and when the fluid becomes smooth, stretchy and clear, it is a sign that you may be ovulating.
  • Take your temperature: Another strategy is to take your basal body temperature, which is your body temperature at rest. Measure it in the morning, when you are still in bed, before you eat or do any activity. During ovulation, your temperature will rise slightly, by about 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit.
  • Ovulation predictor kit: The most accurate way to predict ovulation is with an ovulation predictor kit, says Minkin. These urine tests are available over the counter at drugstores and detect the presence of hormones that indicate ovulation. Minkin recommends the First Response ovulation test for its accuracy and ease of use.

Best ovulation kit

The Insider Reviews team tests and recommends the best ovulation tests. Check out our picks:

She especially recommends an ovulation predictor kit for people who are older or have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for several months. “If you are 25 years old, newly married and would like to have a baby – no, you don’t need to start with an ovulation predictor kit – go enjoy it,” she says.

Insider’s takeaways

You are most fertile in the five days around ovulation. To know when you ovulate, you can track your cycle, monitor your cervical fluid, and use methods like an ovulation predictor kit.

Conception may not happen right away, but it should happen within 6 months to a year of consistent trying. If you’re under 35 and have been trying for a year without success, Minkin suggests seeing a gynecologist. If you’re 35 or older, you can sign up sooner, as early as six months.

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